Previous twilight rides have always been great fun and we were all expecting that this afternoon’s ride would be no exception. It is always a nice feeling to be able to ride the trail, secure in the knowledge that none of us had to rush back to work. An even better thought was the gourmet dinner that would be waiting for us in Warburton. When the weather also blessed us with another fine and warm day, I knew that we would be in for a memorable ride.
At the prearranged (and well publicised) starting time of 3 pm I met up with Gary at Mt Evelyn. “Warby Phil won’t be coming”, he explained. “He forgot about the time change and rode at the normal time”. Not a great start, I thought. Since we were still a few minutes early I suggested to Gary that we ride up to the rotunda in the centre of town. Ten minutes later we were still standing by the side of the road, waiting for a break in the traffic. We decided to forget that idea and just wait for the rest of the peloton instead.
Once Lothar had arrived we were already running behind schedule, and since none of us had bought along headlights, we decided to head off and hope that more would join in later. Within a few minutes we were joined by Crasher and Legs, and near Killara we met (Dr) Phil and Big Al. Of course Hooters had decided to stay home because, although all the other conditions were perfect, he was a little concerned about riding in the twilight. He thought it wiser to stay in his bedroom with his Humpty Dumpty night light for comfort.
It was about this time that we were also met by Garth (aka Incredible Hulk). He had been flying up the trail in a desparate bid to earn a jersey before the end of 2005. Once he had caught the peloton he seemed just as eager to leave it behind. The rest of us showed unity by waiting at Woori Yallock for Lisa to finish putting on her make up and join the ride.
Finally the peloton was complete and I tried to keep all riders within sight of each other as we headed towards Launching Place. This proved impossible to achieve and soon Lothar and the Hulk were out of sight in a cloud of dust. We momemtarily caught up with them at the traffic light at Launching Place before Garth again rested his massive jaw on his handlebars and bolted. This guy is a peloton buster if I ever saw one (but I was not game enough to tell him that in case he ate my bike).
By the time we reached Settlement Rd the riders were so widely spread that it was not possible to stage our regukar sprint and the rest of the ride to Warburton was somewhat of a rabble. At least we were able to settle outside the THREE SUGARS restaurant and enjoy a most pleasant meal. The conversation flowed freely as we tried to think up imaginative new ways to implant a backbone in Hooters. We finally decided that it would be easier to teach a dung beetle to dance Swan Lake than to teach Hooters how to ride a bike.
Finally the lateness of the hour meant that it was time to remount again, although this was somewhat hearder than usual with our full stomachs. I suspect that a siesta break would have been more appropriate, but we all knew that we still had half the ride to complete. None of us could have dreamed at that stage what a dramatic turn of events was about to take place.
All went well with the ride back as far as Woori Yallock. The late afternoon had developed into a perfect early evening, with the gentle peace that descends along the trail seeming to permeate our consciousness. The remaining riders settled into a steady rhythm. The peloton formed into a straight line, with Bob at the front setting a good pace for us to follow. The km seemed to fly by as the team flowed up the trail. It was team riding at its most perfect.
We started the climb up to Wandin in fine form. By this time everyone was warmed up and concentrating hard on the wheel in front. We were even managing to maintain a speed of about 23 kph, largely because of the benefits of teamwork. It was only when we approached the final crossroad that everything suddenly went pear shaped.
I had been following closely behind the Hulk when suddenly he and his bike were thrown violently into the air in front of me. I swerved suddenly and somehow managed to stay upright as his bike clipped my front wheel. After spiralling through the air the Hulk crashed into the gravel with a monumental thud, his massive arms and legs flailing wildly. The nearby gum trees lurched with the impact, which I suspected would have been at least seven on the Richter Scale.
It only took a fraction of a second for me to realise what had happened. Garth had ridden straight into one of those cruel metal barriers that are intended to stop cars from entering the trail. I had often feared what would happen if an unsuspecting cyclist rode into one of these and now our worst fears had come to pass. I suspected that the Hulk would be seriously injured, surely with a collection of broken bones and massive contusions. After all, Crasher Lewis and Digger Bury had both previously broken bones just by watching someone else crash.
You can imagine how amazed I was when the Hulk simply got back on his feet, threw aside the broken fragments of the steel barrier and announced that he was “ready to get going”. That guy has got to be one the toughest individuals on the planet. After his spectacular triumph on El Capitan , he had now found another way to write himself into Ghost Rider folk lore. The rest of us just watched on in disbelief.
Back at Mt Evelyn we all agreed that the consequences of the crash could have been very much worse if it had been anyone else other than the Hulk that had run into the barrier. It is a complete mystery to all of us why such a dangerous form of barrier has been situated right in the centre of the pathway. Surely it would be possible to achieve the same result with something that would not be so potentially lethal to cyclists.
Apart from the “Incredible Crash of 2005”, the rest of the ride had been a huge success. We agreed to schedule at least one more twilight ride before the end of summer.